Republican Councilors Dave Wheeler of Milford and Joe Kenney of Wakefield still had concerns over the content of the instruction last week. (Dave Cummings | New Hampshire Bulletin)
A federally funded teacher training program to help educators reduce stress in the classroom has been put on hold after members of the Executive Council said they wanted more information.
Voting unanimously June 1, the council opted to table a contract that would have extended the program another year. The program, known as “The Regulated Classroom,” was first approved by the council in January; the new contract would double the amount of federal funding directed toward the program from $815,400 to around $1.6 million overall, and extend the program’s end date from September 2023 to 2024.
Founded by a former school counselor in Peterborough, The Regulated Classroom trains teachers in a number of techniques to “regulate” stress and emotion among both teachers and students. The techniques include vocal exercises, rhythmic chest tapping, coordinated arm movements, and the creation of mantras, adhering to “the polyvagal theory,” which proposes that a person’s emotional well-being is tied to their physical nervous system.
Supporters, who include Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut and the National Education Association of New Hampshire, say the trainings are critical to helping educators navigate the difficult transition period from pandemic-era social distancing and masking to classroom instruction. The first round of money approved has already been allocated to trainings, which are now booked up; the new round would help expand that.
The state contract helps pay for $299 teacher “toolkits” to assist in the instruction, which include weighted scarfs, sculpting materials, fidgets, stress relievers, massage roller balls, and other items. And the contract pays the organization running The Regulated Classroom, Here This Now, $1,000 per teacher for direct training sessions or for “train the trainer” events to pass on the methods.
The renewed contract had been delayed by Edelblut in May after some executive councilors expressed skepticism and hesitation. When it came before the council June 1, Republican Councilors Dave Wheeler of Milford and Joe Kenney of Wakefield still had concerns over the content of the instruction.
At one point, Wheeler zeroed in on one component of the instruction that features mandalas, a visual tool that helps with focus during meditation, and that is a sacred symbol in Buddhism and Hinduism. Edelblut said the use of that technique was not inherently religious.
“Are you saying there is no religious connotation to teaching mandalas?” Wheeler said. “I would strongly disagree with that.”
Addressing councilors’ concerns, Edelblut said the contract was important to allow students and teachers to stay focused on the classroom.
“The focus here is really on helping students to be able to access their instruction,” Edelblut said, “by not disrupting that instruction because of behavior that can be managed.”
The item will remain tabled until a majority of councilors choose to remove it from the table and bring it forward for a vote.
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